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Summer Savvy: Know the Signs & Symptoms of Dehydration

Liz Merritt
June 16, 2017
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The summer heat has arrived, and that means outdoor sports and fitness activities take on a heightened awareness when it comes to symptoms of dehydration. That’s why it’s critical to be aware of our hydration status as we venture outside during the summer months.

Assessing your personal hydration status – your baseline – and understanding how quickly your body needs fluid replenishment is the first step, according to the experts at the American Council on Exercise (ACE).

Symptoms of Dehydration

Simple ways to establish a hydration baseline include weighing before and after exercise and monitoring changes in urine color.

Simple ways to establish a hydration baseline include weighing before and after exercise and monitoring changes in urine color.

Here’s why that’s important. A loss in body weight during exercise of 2 percent or more can impact cardiac output, blood flow and core temperature. And dark-colored urine is another indicator of under hydration.

Fluid Guidelines

The National Academy of Sports Medicine recommends men drink 125-130 ounces of fluids daily and women take in 91-95 ounces each day. This can be from water, other fluids, fruits and vegetables.

ACE further recommends drinking 17-20 ounces of water two hours before exercising in heat. Additionally, down 7-10 ounces of fluid (water and/or sports drinks containing electrolytes) every 10-20 minutes during exercise. And take on 16-24 ounces of fluid for every pound of body weight lost after exercise.

Consuming cold fluids during exercise can also help keep the body’s core temperature cooler, according to the National Athletic Trainers Association. In addition, it’s important to gradually acclimate the body to the summer heat by increasing duration and intensity of training over at least a two-week period.

Performance Losses

Symptoms of Dehydration

For anyone who works out and trains regularly, it’s essential to keep properly hydrated to minimize performance losses.

For anyone who works out and trains regularly outdoors in summer heat and humidity, it’s essential to keep properly hydrated to minimize performance losses. Dehydration can lead to increased muscle fatigue and loss of coordination.

Even worse, a dehydrated body that can’t cool itself can set in motion a wave of physiological responses that will lead to heat exhaustion or heat stroke.

Symptoms of heat exhaustion include dizziness, lightheadedness, muscle cramps and spasms, fatigue, chills or goose bumps, excessive sweating, nausea and/or vomiting.

Heat stroke – the most serious heat-related illness – is characterized by a core body temperature above 105 degrees, confusion, aggression, loss of consciousness, elevated heart rate, rapid breathing, low blood pressure and seizures. Both of these conditions are very serious and require immediate medical attention.

Top 10 Symptoms of Dehydration

  • Increased thirst
  • Dry mouth & swollen tongue
  • Weakness
  • Dizziness
  • Heart palpitations
  • Confusion
  • Sluggishness
  • Fainting
  • Inability to sweat
  • Decreased urine output

Avoid Heat-Related Illnesses

Symptoms of Dehydration

Be aware of the most common risk factors for heat illness.

With heightened awareness, most athletes can avoid compromising their hydration status. NATA experts spell out the most common risk factors for heat illness.

  1. First, be attentive to warm-weather hydration needs and proactively consume more fluids and electrolytes.
  2. Avoid heat-retaining clothing, dark clothing, or restrictive gear that does not allow water vapor to pass through.
  3. Be aware that if you’ve had a recent illness, the susceptibility to heat-related illnesses is higher.
  4. In addition, people with a history of heat illness are at a higher risk.
  5. High intensity training in heat can also increase risk of heat illness.
  6. Athletes who have not properly acclimated to the heat are at a higher risk.
  7. Certain medications or drugs can have a dehydrating effect. This puts athletes at risk for heat illness, particularly older athletes who may be taking diuretics.
  8. Finally, If you sweat heavily or are a salty sweater, electrolyte imbalances are more likely to occur. Therefore, include added electrolytes in your workout arsenal for hot-weather training.


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